As the president of the United States, Donald Trump has some pretty cool superpowers. There are things that he can do that literally no one else in the world can. He can sign executive orders to make things happen without going through legislative processes and he can pardon people who have been convicted of crimes. It’s common for presidents to do both these things, but people are outraged at Trump’s first pick for a presidential pardon: Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2017
Now, it’s very rare that everyone agrees on a presidential pardon. There were people who were unhappy with Obama’s pardons too. The thing that makes the Arpaio pardon particularly divisive is that his conviction was for racial profiling practices that targeted Latinos unfairly for traffic stops and detention.
Racial profiling and systemic racism is a huge problem in police departments and the justice system in nearly every country and the U.S. is in the spotlight in particular when it comes to racial biases. Especially in light of what happened in Charlottesville and the flack he received for basically aligning himself with white supremacists, Donald Trump should be very careful when commenting on racially divisive issues. Instead, the president decided to pardon a man convicted of violating the American constitution.
Arpaio first took office in 1993 and quickly became known as ‘America’s toughest sheriff’ for his focus on targeting illegal immigration. In 2011, he was ordered by a District Court judge to stop detaining people on the belief that they were in the country illegally, rather than on suspicion that a crime had been committed.
He willfully disobeyed the order, saying he wouldn’t ‘back down’ or ‘give into control by the federal government.’ Arpaio and his colleagues continued to target Latinos in their jurisdiction, detaining people on no criminal grounds.
At the end of July this year, the sheriff was found guilty of criminal contempt. His sentencing hearing was scheduled for October 5, but Trump’s pardon will exonerate the 85-year-old and make him a free man before then. The official pardon comes a few days after Trump said of Arpaio at his rally in Pheonix August 22, ‘Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe? So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? … I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.’
There has been public outrage from both the right and the left over the president’s pardon with both sides calling it an undermining of law (although, it should be noted, the pardon is fully legal).
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 26, 2017
“Mr. President, Texas is facing total devastation and North Korea just fired a missile, what do you want to do”
“Let’s pardon the racist”
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) August 26, 2017
A lot of ppl on Left, Right, and in between, against Trump pardoning a convicted racial profiler. It’s about principles, not partisanship. https://t.co/JkC4x4GQTK
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) August 28, 2017
President Trump isn’t just pardoning Joe Arpaio for being a supporter. He’s pardoning him bc he doesn’t believe Arpaio did anything wrong. https://t.co/18sHqhCpW6
— Sen. Al Franken (@SenFranken) August 26, 2017
✔️His jail was a concentration camp
✔️Helped Trump w/his birther BS.
✔️”Lost” evidence in pedophile crimes
✔️Pardoned by Trump
— W Smith Ω (@WesSmith123) August 28, 2017
If Joe Arpaio bumped into me and said “Oh, pardon me!” I would be like “No.”
— Ed Helms (@edhelms) August 26, 2017
Political analysts and even members of Trump’s own party are concerned about the lack of regard for the rule of law that this pardon shows. Not only did Arpaio break the law, he flaunted it and has shown no remorse. That’s without even considering the fact that the laws he broke were in relation to racial profiling and illegal detention. This is one more Trump move that screams of totalitarianism and people are pretty scared about what that might mean for the next three years of his presidency.